My client relationships usually start about 1 – 1.5 years before their wedding day! This means I’m working with clients for an extended period of time. To help keep both myself and my clients “in the know” throughout this period of time, I work with an extensive contract. As it currently stands, my contract is 6.5 pages in length. It breaks down into five different categories: description of services, client’s responsibilities, disclaimer/release, copyright, and general terms. Each of these categories is again broken down into multiple sections.
My contract plays an essential role in communicating expectations for myself and my clients. Over time, I learned to add clauses to enhance client experience. I’m sharing what’s in my contract and the four clauses/sections I wish I had in my contract from the start. I am primarily a wedding photographer, but I hope this post can help artists and other service providers! Please note, I am not a lawyer. I highly recommend having a lawyer read through, edit and approve your contract before you send it out to clients.
Photography is Subjective
Wedding photographers provide a service, but we’re also artists. As we know, art is subjective. When my Dad looks at my work, the standout photos for him are the classically posed family portraits. These are the only photos he ever asks to look at when I’ve finished editing a wedding. To him, everything else is “unnecessary artsy stuff.” To the majority of my clients, the “unnecessary artsy stuff” is exactly what they’re searching for in a wedding photographer.
It’s important for me to make sure that as a photographer, I meet the style expectations of my clients. That means I actively turn down photography work if I know that I’m not the right fit for them. If they’re in love with bright and airy photos, I’m likely not the photographer for them. I discuss style preference with clients at least twice before we officially book. However, just in case, to cover all my bases, I also include this clause in my contract:
“The work of the Photographer is creative and unique to the circumstances of each wedding and portrait session. The Photographer’s editing and shooting style is available for review on the photographer’s website. The Clients’ wedding will be photographed in a style similar to what is indicated on the photographer’s website. Therefore, while the Photographer (at the Photographer’s sole discretion) may attempt to account for some or all of the Clients’ requests respecting styles, poses, settings, atmosphere, and the like in producing the Product, the Photographer will not be responsible for any failure (perceived or otherwise) to produce Product to any such specification or specifications of the Clients.”
Breaks Are Necessary
When I first started out as a wedding photographer I didn’t include a clause about break time nor food. For the most part it wasn’t an issue, but there were two weddings during that first year when I worked a 10 hour wedding with no breaks and no food at the reception. I pack my car full of snacks on a wedding day, so I left the reception during the dinner break to go eat in my car, once a second shooter also ran to McDonald’s for us. I know that I don’t function at my best after running around for 10 hours with little to eat. Yes, I had snacks, but it wasn’t the same as taking the time to sit down, rest my back and eyes, and enjoy a good solid meal.
After that experience I built specific food and break clauses into my contract:
“A break and time for all photographers to eat a meal is greatly appreciated. If no meal is provided at the reception or after 5 hours of services, the photographers will leave for one hour to procure a meal.”
This clause leaves things open ended for my clients in the case that they choose not to feed myself or a second shooter at a reception, which is totally okay by the way! Some venues offer vendor meals as well which are often served in a back room to vendors such as your photography, video and DJ team. So, in no way is this clause forcing anyone to feed me at their wedding. What this clause does do, is protect me from working 8 – 10 hours without the chance to take a break and feed myself.
Most often couples do choose to feed their photographer at the reception, or opt for the vendor meal. They would rather I stick around than leave for an hour.
This last point isn’t specifically in my contract, but I do let clients know that I don’t take photos during the dinner hour unless there are specific program points built in. The last thing your guests want is a photographer taking photos of them as they eat.
Clear Overtime Expectations
Weddings can run overtime for a variety of reasons: weather/rainout, forgetting to bring the marriage license, traffic, lost guests or wedding party members etc. As a wedding photographer, it’s generally expected that I capture most of the key/epic items on your wedding day timeline. BUT, what happens when we’re going waaaaay overtime and we’re not close to the first dance yet? Clear communication happens 🙂
This is where we make a plan with the couple beforehand. During my month of consultation with clients (we meet about two – three weeks before their wedding day so that we can walk through any timeline questions) I ask my clients who will be my contact person in the event that I predict we are running late with the program.
I give them the option of choosing someone to delegate, because heck, it’s their wedding day and I don’t want to be reminding them about the clock! That’s the last thing I want to do. In most cases, the couple delegates one of their close family members.
If I find myself in a scenario where we’re approaching the tenth hour and we’re still far away from speeches or the first dance, I’ll approach their designated person and let them know where we’re at in terms of time. I ask if they’d like me to leave at the end of my ten hours OR if they would like me to stay until the first dance is finished.
“If the photographer is required past the number of hours as outlined in this contract on the wedding day, the clients will be responsible for paying the photographer an additional $350.00 CAD per hour. Payment for additional time is due within thirty business days after the wedding.”
I have never been harassed, endangered nor abused while working as a photographer. I am incredibly thankful for this.
My thus far safe experience as a wedding photographer has not stopped me from doing everything in my power to make sure that my workplace remains a safe space. To ensure that I have the undisputed option to remove myself from any dangerous situation on a wedding day I include a harassment clause in my wedding contract:
“If the Photographer feels threatened, endangered, abused or harassed by the Clients, members of the public or guests on the day of the wedding the Photographer reserves the right to cease shooting and leave the location/premises immediately.”
NOTE, always remove yourself from a dangerous situation even if your contract does not include a similar clause. Do not endanger yourself for your work. Including this clause in my contract makes it very clear to clients that I do not tolerate dangerous behaviours or actions. The clause makes sure that we are all on the same page. This is a part of communicating your expectations to your clients.
Hi, my name is Janelle, I’m a photographer from Edmonton Alberta. I’m all about three things: celebration, connection and client education. My style is relaxed and romantic. I love intimate weddings, the kind where I get to know your family and friends. I thrive when meeting new people.My favourite moment of every wedding is right after the ceremony. This is when your friends and family smother or possibly crush you with either love or cheerful embrace. Bring on all the candid moments.
I value connection and celebration of moments over a big production.
Bee keeper in training. Head on over to www.thebeekeepergal.com